Monday, 15 January 2018

Edinburgh XC Festival

We made an appearance at Holyrood Park in Edinburgh on Saturday. Speedy Joe was selected for the West of Scotland after a very buoyant cross country season. She's no doubt hoping to improve on her 29th place at the Nationals next Month. We were in attendance as supporters and general hangers on.

The Inter-District race is one within the Great North running festival where there are some international racers in their crisp new matching tracksuits and shoe bags. The organisers encourage people to pay a 'robust' sum to run round a 5k course in the park. I dare say, no doubt, that all the marshalling and organisation costs money.

Step away from the roped enclosure please
We appeared at the top end of the park from our car parked somewhere across from the now absent Velodrome at Meadowbank; (where's it gone?-what a sad waste of money; all that Malaysian hardwood). We watched a little incredulous at all the bouncing about as the fitness instructor whipped up the 'joe public and some club runners' crowd to warm them up. The music was thumping. A high decibel experience and no mistake. As long as they were enjoying themselves!

We eventually met up with Cat at 10am. She was complaining of an 'underlying cold'. Not sure what this malady is; I said 'if she had a cold I wouldn't shout at her, if she was lurgy free, however,  I would be giving her pelters if she was slacking around the 6k course'.

Nothing to see here
The Inter-District race started at 10:40am and after the daft fast start, it settled down. There were 3 districts, representing the north, east and west of Scotland. Surely there should be a south as well? There were also guest teams from Scottish Students and the North of England. The latter were made up largely from athletes from Leeds and Manchester we were advised. We parked ourselves up on the hill where the athletes double back on themselves and where there are 2 water crossings.
I had my new Panasonic Lumix and nipped into the inner enclosure for a few shots. An older bloke sidled up to me and hovered on my shoulder for abit. I thought he was checking my bald patch or admiring my eighties shoulder pads. However, I was gently asked to leave the 'special area' after he made it clear it was only for 'authorised people'. Given my own self importance, I advised him equally gently as I peered through the view-finder that I'd only be there a couple of minutes. No one wanted any unpleasantness. In fairness, it was unlikely, but some of these folk can be a wee bitty jobsworth. I heard later from Missus Mac that two other spectators were having a good grumble about my taking of enclosure liberties. They had cameras also, but evidently not the brass-neckery to breach the confines of the inner sanctum. FFS is all I can say. Must be getting a bit dangerous in my dotage. Next time I'll bring Aunt Aggie. That'll shake things up abit.
The youngster finished mid table and somehow scraped a silver earn medal as 6th counter, so we were all happy (well, nearly all!!).  I was then for clearing off after the event, but the other half felt she wanted to watch the relay and international cross country. Being less keen to watch the 'stars and starlets', I jogged back to the car and got my trainers on and managed a steady 7 miles with a couple of laps up the hill and around the back of the park. We took off for a light snack up the Royal Mile afterwards and then it was the drive home. I was quite keen to see how the photos turned out and certainly I felt its a much more versatile camera than the other digital slr that we have; so there will be no excuse to hold back on taking a few shots at the various events that we attend. The Flickr site is still up at this link:

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Escape from the Rattling kingdom of Phlegm

I've, at last, yanked myself free from the sputumous stranglehold of the rattling kingdom of Phlegm that is the flu ridden erse-end of 2017. The nasal passageways are clear. The trainers have been dusted off and I even gave myself a 20 mile treat on Sunday with an solo ultra- run in fine crisp conditions. It took 2hrs, 30 minutes which puts me in 3:20 shape for March's marathon.
I was in Beadnall today, just down the coast from Seahouses and the forbidding, historical ramparts of Bamburgh Castle. It was a quick visit and the thought of a run up the coast along the sand had entered my mind. However, I had no gloves and didn't fancy taking on the slicing bitter north easterly which was blowing in from the Scandinavian snow caps of Bergen.

The sky was gloomy, grey and doleful. Spitting. No matter. 'I am made of sterner stuff' I told myself as I drove to Seahouses and parked up; with the heater on (I might add). Across the bare, wet sand whipped tarmac was a shop that sells tat, but this includes a range of cheap gloves and on exiting the bazaar and having paid my £2.99, I was good to go. I strapped on the garmin and it was a slow 3 miles northward to Bamburgh. The cloud was low and the sea angry and green. The breakers had 'no mercy' tattooed on their knuckles; the Farne Islands sat shivering under a dark blue and heavy sky. I pulled my hat down further over my ears and ploughed on. I felt the ipod was shuffling up some apposite tunes; Boston, Tears for Fears...god forbid I actually got out of the 80's. Katy Perry kept trying to get in, but she was cut off at the pass; in the first few bars, in her prime;

The Salomons failed predictably to cope with the slippy wet limestone outcrops that peppered the beach, but I remained upright.  The edge of the water was frothing as it ebbed and flowed and the golden sand fresh and firm underfoot. Other than a few dog walkers it was deserted. Occasional screeches of gulls and parcels of oyster-catchers stood their ground as I persevered into the wind, stopping for the odd photo. There's a whole range of collective nouns for bird species and I fancy I will bring in a further few into future blogs (after all, who can resist a 'conventicle' of magpies, a 'wisdom' of owls or a 'fecoffski' of hopping ravens). 
I checked my watch and realised that I would be pushing it to get back to the car before the ticket ran out, so it was up and off the beach, and back around the imposing castle walls with the whispering gargled voice of Æthelfrith in one ear. It was just the sort of day that he would be laid up, sitting by a fire, swigging ale from a wooden tumbler and polishing his helmet.
The road back from Bamburgh to Seahouses is flat and runs parallel to the coast and with the tailwind behind me, I clocked 3 sub seven minute miles as I high tailed it back to Seahouses, just as the Council van pulled into the car park. The thought of trying to do 6 minute mile-ing is as close to it as I get these days.
 I stopped at Lidl coming home for some mince and tonight its Mince and Tatties. I like it with loads of pepper, but don't tell Auntie Aggie that. I enjoy watching her cough uncontrollably as the innocuous seasoning ambushes her halfway through her dinner. Ahh, simple pleasures!

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Bronchial Tubeway Army

It’s early on a Hogmanay morning. We are about to kiss goodbye to 2017. It’s been an interesting year. It seems to me that time continues to accelerate.  To Infinity and beyond. The calendar seems intent on racing toward 2020.  I’m wondering if I’ll manage to shoehorn in a few events and make any meaningful inroads into my own personal bucket list, not that I have one.  Terrible phrase. Society and politics are all over the place. Maybe I should apply for an Irish passport.   
I was given a pressie at Christmas of a day out at a sportive entitled the Tour De Peak, a 60 mile romp around the best inclinations Derbyshire has to offer.  That’s in May. I also fancy the Loch Katrine half and might venture further afield for off road events. I notice comments on gender etc in the entry blurb for Katrine. Not seen that before. But seems the half is full already, so might be the full 26 miles. Better value anyway!
I’ve watched a pile of tele. over this past few days; and it has been a pile. That's not really from choice. I’ve been laid up in bed for 3 days with a cold. Some people call it manflu. I had a sore throat on Boxing Day as we wandered along the snowy ridge at Simonside for a walk. The next day my nose was tripping me and I retired with Vicks, a box of tissues and the tv remote controller. This is, however, a quality cold. It’s a big, ballsy virus who has moved in and wants to make itself at home. It's brought all its mates. It’s not welcome. Not welcome at all.

With the frequency of colds in recent months, I have considered beginning a list of colds, giving them names, like they do with storms. This one would be called a *u&8#in t$”* of a cold. I am now an exhausted and bored invalid. By day three I might have been attracted to snorting the lemsip powder like it was a wrap, rather than mixing it into a steamy tincture if I thought it would improve the efficacy of the supposed remedy. Mrs Mac actually questioned whether stopping in bed was the best option. She postulated that it might indulge the virus, making the effects worse.  I don’t think so, however. Blidy cheek. My sick bed does not represent the Waldorf for germs, well at least not that I’m aware.  The room service is too poor for a start. The amount of clagg I’m producing would be more than enough to wallpaper the bedroom and still have some left to fill half the potholes in the county. I wonder if the highways agency might hire me. The BBC might cover it; certainly regional news should. I feel I should get Vera in to investigate.  Maybe make an appearance as a B celebratory or get grilled by Kirsty Wark on a late show.

If the 11k is on tomorrow (he said listening to the blustery wind outside) I will find myself on camera duty. As a result, I have been boning up between coughs, grockles and splutters, on how to use the Nikon. I do miss the Panasonic, however. I’m not really a fan of twiddling exposure settings and twisting dials. Not a camera anorak. I think I need a longer lense. I hope the lights good. I hope I remember to remove the lense cap.
I have also read the Marie Kondo book on tidying up so there could be some changes when I manage to get out of this snot ridden hell hole. I have made some serious inroads into Mrs Craddock. I should finish the novel off today. I have watched any number of films, but this morning I have happened upon Sooty and another kids programme called BottomKnocker Street. I bet you didn’t know such programmes existed.  One was lamer than the other, but not by much. If I was subjected to these with any regularity I would want to comfort eat as well.  Today is day 5 of the effin cold (needs to be said in a big brother accent). Al is still in bed as dawn breaks. The others are still asleep. The snow has gone outside and its time for a cuppa.  Perhaps I will put the radio on and turn the google box off for a bit.  Dino and Dina has just started. Guff.  Am I VERY grumpy?

Saturday, 23 December 2017

The Longest Night

I managed a steady 20 miles on Thursday Morning. 'Big deal' I hear you say? When I say 'morning', I meant 'proper morning'.
I ventured out at 1am to support Our Kid on her sponsored 'longest night' run for the charity Shelter for the homeless. Her route was a 5 mile loop around the town.
I am not a late night person; I much prefer running later than earlier and although this was very early in theory, it was, in practice, simply that bit later than my evening run. I had ran a prompt 9 miles in the early evening on the Wednesday and had a bath and an hours kip before I made an appearance in the wee small hours. By that time, the dark destroyer had been out on her feet for nine hours or so. She had clocked up just over 50 miles. She was still quite chipper but her pace had slowed a little. The support group that appeared at the front door with her were in good spirits as she arrived for a pit stop. If you chose a night to run in in December, then this was it. Mild, damp and still.
I had no idea how far I was going to go with her or for how long. It was safe to say that I had never felt the need for a coffee and three peanut butter and raspberry jam sannies at three in the morning. Kept me going a treat. The last of the supporters peeled off at 3am, and I carried on until half five when a buddy was meeting up with her. Running down the middle of the high street in the middle of the night with not a soul around was a little surreal, the silent sparkly Christmas lights doing their thing.
I glanced at the town clock with every lap; we were clocking an hour a lap. There were plenty of rabbits around but I was a little disappointed not to bump into a fox or two.  I fell into bed after a cuppa and woke a couple of times, disorientated, before getting up just after ten. She clocked up 76 miles before finishing at 8:30am and she's raised £1500 so far. Epic effort.
If you have a couple of quid for charity this season, any contribution would be money well spent.  Some very generous people out there.

Friday, 15 December 2017

The Bealach Path

I spent a small fortune in Pitlochry yesterday. I was concluding my  two day winter fitness camp and was mooching around the town waiting for the late train. A pub lunch here, a new jumper and scarf there and before you can say 'that'll do nicely', I was overloaded with luggage I hadn't anticipated 3 hours earlier.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was in two minds to go, but work has quietened off and no one was chasing me on the phone. I scrutinized the forecast in some detail, before looking at hotel and train prices. Good discounts available. There was also a good chance of snow (Wunderground is a good site when looking for future snow). When I called the hotel, they said there was some lying on the hill. So, with train tickets reduced for 1st class and the hotel room and breakfast at a bargain rate, I went for it.
Taking the early train up, I changed in Edinburgh. On the way up, however, things were still very green as I scoured the hills. No matter, it would be good change of scene.
I arrived in the town mid-morning to be greeted with black ice and the hangover of a hard overnight frost. Old folk were clinging to each other like their lives depended on it. It was dicey on the icey.
I sat in the hotel until lunchtime after a slow tea and an even slower bowl of soup. Too early to check in, see.  However, I didn't want to run in the dark, so changed in the toilets and left my gear with reception and off I went up Ben Vrackie and then not quite getting to the top, cut down and followed the Bealach Path over the mountain before the grey clouds began turning purple blue and the snow arrived. There was around two or three inches of snow on the hill and it was just me, a handful of Ptarmigans and late in the run, some deer. They were high up and wary of some muffled nutter aimlessly tramping along in the snow; and rightly so. It was a slow affair with 10 miles covered by the time I got back, nearly 3000ft of climbing and 2 hours of snowy Scotland all to myself. I resisted the siren call, the temptation of the Moulin Inn; next time, I promised myself.

To make the most of the next day (Thursday), I needed to be out the door by 7:30am. Breakfast was served until 10:30am and as it was in with the deal, I needed to be back in time. So, eating early on Wednesday evening, I retired shortly after port and cigars and it was lights out at 8:30pm. Slept well until 2:30am and was wide awake. Got back to slumberland sometime later and was up and out the door sure enough at crack of 7:30am. It was cold and dark and icy, so I ran round the town and over the bridge under the orange gaze of the streetlights and then along the north of the river picking up to river path to Killicrankie. As dawn broke, the run developed into a thing of beauty and the camera came out here and there. Frozen lakes, dangling icicles as long as your posh aunts finger nails and plenty of grouse and a few grey squirrels foraging under the copper beach leaves strewn liberally across the forest track. It was plenty icy in places, but mostly all runnable. No one around. Solitary bliss.

As I neared Killiecrankie, I could feel the draw of the old soldiers lament and by the time I had reached the Battle of Killiecrankie Visitors Centre and the Soldiers Leap, it was well after nine, and with seven miles under my belt, it was time to turn back. I got up the bank and onto the old road between Pitlochry and Blair Atholl and headed back on the tarmac just as the snow began. At first it was light and the flakes quite icy, but as I arrived back into Town just before ten, the flakes were huge, cold and floaty. They filled the sky. I expected Mrs Deagle to come out of McNaughtons drapery or catch Gizmo's huge doe eyes peeping out from under some wifeys shopping bag.
Shower, breakies and lashings of hot coffee.  Spent the rest of the day wandering and parked up close to the fires in the Old Mill and McKays , which I returned to for a wee ploughmans. Once I'd read the paper I reverted to Somerset Maugham's Mrs Craddock. Dated, but I'm halfway through now.

If you get the chance to get to Pitlochry for a day or two, there are some great off road runs around the place. Some good deals on as well with the hotels. I stayed at McKays. Terrific value. 22 good miles over 2 days.
Next time; soon; maybe early next year I am going to go all the way along the path and road  to Blair Atholl: should be a great run.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017


The ice queen has arrived and not before time. She arrived with her chilly cohort. She's a cool customer, parading her sub-zero wares around the place in her frosty chariot. The mercury has plummeted to a testing minus 6 in the last few nights and still below freezing during the day. In celebration (as I am of the same Ilk; from the same tribe) I have knocked out two solid 8 milers through the 'frizen' woods at lunchtime. No speed; no ipod; a low thrum from the A1. Hard on the soles in fell shoes. Just me and a few robins, the occasional pigeon or blackbird and magpie.
There has, in recent years, been a creeping propensity, a predisposition to wind work down when the opalescent grey clouds of winter arrive and we are fed the annual fare from the mainstream channels of the Country grinding to a halt. The big freeze. Happy enough with this apparent state, and never reluctant to find an excuse to cop off to the immure and torpid forest, the ferns wizened and brown below a coating of crystal pyjamas, I have for some considerable time, felt eager to get out when the proper icy air clamps your face and your finger ends are looking for more than a cheap wooly glove for somewhere to keep them from going white.  Here, at blog HQ, we are near the coast and this has moderated the climate a little. So tomorrow first thing, I'm off in search of some running in colder climes. Wish me luck.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Black is the new Black

I was both excited and anxious as I arrived at Sunderland's City Centre University Halls for the November black belt grading. My sporting routine has been gradually grinding to a halt as I have packed in more and more karate lessons in the run up to the Special Dan Training and Grading session. Each club session is six quid a pop and an hour and a half of (more or less) full-on aerobic effort.  High kicking in your fifties is no balm to the elderly, I can tell you.  Ain't natural.  Thankfully, my running history has provided me with more endurance than the average joe public, and by god, I needed it.
It was a crisp morning. Firstly we had an hour and a half's training with two of the top Karate practitioners in the Country. Then there was a 2 hour wait before the afternoon grading began. I did my best to avoid contact and aimless small talk and speculation by walking to Greggs for a cuppa and then reclining as best I could on a hard chair with my eyes closed in the noisy and crowded sports centre. The air of expectation and mild fear was palpable.  It was like being at the dentists or sweating outside the headmasters office in the 70's.  
Having written out a cheque for £70, I was incentivised to do as well as possible. A crowd of around 50 candidates trooped into the small hall and I was in the second last group of 4 to go through the syllabus.  After 2 hours of waiting and watching others, I prayed to anyone that was listening that I'd manage to keep it all together.
My name was called. I stepped up and I set off to impress, but mainly to try and avoid making  stupid mistakes, the same ones that had littered my training.  After 15 minutes of full on effort, I finished and went back to my corner. I dropped my sparring mitts and gum shield into my bag and, exhausted, sat hunched with a towel over my head, the sweat dripping off my nose.  However, the judges had other ideas and with only the final 3 candidates left, an odd number, I was called back to spar and fight again to make up the numbers. Much joy! I hastily grabbed my gear and lined up again for another bout of sparring. As I tried to summon the energy to fight convincingly for two minutes, I couldn't decide if I was called up again because I was good last time, or because I was  marginal and they wanted another look. No matter, it was soon over and I bowed, left the floor and sat down again, spent. 
Its not until the very end of the day that if you've convinced the panel, they ask you back up to do another different kata (a pre-determined set of moves). Out of about fifty present, there were only about 15 or 16 asked up. Thankfully I was one of them. There was still room for failure, but the kata suited me and I raced through it. The end was in sight. 
The whole class was brought to the front and the individual results and comments delivered. Success and a long tough day, but a memorable one. 
 I am having the day off today and lying on the settee with the rain outside.  Its now time to resurrect my running career, methinks. Where are those trainers?